It is time to end the death penalty in California. Proposition 62 provides the fair and just way forward.
The death penalty has failed in every way imaginable. Here are some:
The death penalty undermines public confidence in our justice system through its disproportionate application to poor, mentally-ill defendants from a few counties.
The risk of putting an innocent person to death is real. DNA exonerations have shown that our courts and their verdicts are not perfect. Defendants are wrongfully convicted even in the most serious cases.
The death penalty forces families of victims through years of uncertainty and court hearings.
The death penalty is enormously expensive. Since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California has spent $5 billion prosecuting death penalty cases and maintaining an expensive death row that now houses 747 inmates. The prosecution of death penalty cases costs 18 times more than prosecution of life-sentence cases. Since 1978, only 13 death sentences have been carried out, at a staggering cost of $384 million per execution.
The system has failed from a moral perspective as well. The death penalty does not deter crime. Legal proceedings keep the families of victims suffering in court for decades.
Prop 62 will replace the failed death penalty with a life sentence without parole. Instead of sitting in expensive, private death row cells, convicted murderers will serve their life sentence in high-security prisons with the general population, while working and paying restitution. By ending the failed death penalty and all its problems, Prop 62 saves taxpayers $150 million a year.
Prop 66 does not fix the problem. It creates new layers of bureaucracy and tinkers with appellate procedure in likely violation of the California Constitution. It shifts financial burdens onto counties and recklessly proposes to force inexperienced and unqualified defense attorneys to take the cases, increasing the risk that an innocent person would be sentenced to death.
Opponents and supporters of the death penalty both agree it has failed in California. Please vote “yes” on Prop 62 and “no” on Prop 66.
Elisabeth Weber is a literature professor at UCSB and Mark Saatjian is a Deputy Public Defender in Santa Barbara.